[From Fred Nickols (981205.1705 EST)]--
Hello, all. I posted the following to the LO (Learning
Organization) list. Because it so obviously relates to
what transpires on this list I thought I'd post it here,
too, and ask for comments from the PCT view.
Posted to LO on 12/5/98...
Jon Krispin posted at length regarding the subject line above
and I'll not attempt a response to all of it. However, a couple
of points do draw some comments.
Jon cited me below...
Fred Nickols wrote in LO20060:
On my part, I believe that every human being is in absolute
control of his or her own behavior. That said, can someone
put a gun to my head and coerce me into doing something I
wouldn't ordinarily do? Of course, but in the last analysis
I am the one doing the doing.
And Jon then goes on to observe...
Here is a perfect example of an antecedent (gun to head with demand being
made) that is very effectively paired with a consequence (a negative,
IMMEDIATE, certain consequence). As Fred points out, the likelihood that
this antecedent will be successful at influencing behavior is very high.
This also illustrates what I described in my previous post on behavioral
psychology as negative reinforcement. The behavior that results,
compliance with the demand, is often referred to as escape or avoidance
behavior. We will work to reduce or remove (avoid) the aversive condition
(antecedent), and no more. As soon as the threat is removed, the behavior
which it "motivates" will stop.
Now before I comment, let me make clear that I am not going
to criticize what Jon wrote nor do I intend being overly
"picky" but I do aim to clarify something.
Nowhere in what I said did I say that the gun to my head
influences my behavior. I will acknowledge that my actions
are intended to avoid getting shot and, eventually, removing
the threat posed by the gun to my head. But my behavior is
under my control. It grows increasingly important in my own
thinking to draw a distinction between my behavior and my
actions. My actions and, frequently their effects, are
observable and, under certain conditions, controllable by
others. My behavior is not entirely observable and it is
not at all amenable to control by others. Indeed, attempts
to control my behavior will engender conflict whereas my
actions are quite often very negotiable.
Note: This distinction between behavior and actions derives
from Perceptual Control Theory as developed and
articulated by William T. Powers. The best source is
his 1973 book, Behavior: The Control of Perception.
(If any of you have been to my articles web site and
read the systems poem there, you will note the influence
of his point of view.)
So, not to be unnecessarily picky, but I think it is helpful
to distinguish between behavior and actions. Just exactly why
will be apparent in a moment.
Later in his post, Jon writes...
Remember from my previous post on the behaviorist perspective
that consequences that follow behavior either strengthen/reinforce the
behavior (positive and negative reinforcement) or weaken/balance it
(extinction and punishment).
Technically (and "pickily") speaking, that is simply not
the case. There is no way consequences strengthen or
weaken any preceding behavior or actions. Consequences
might be conveniently spoken of as "shaping" future actions
in similar situations, but the behavior and actions that
occurred previously are gone off into the past where they
are not influenced by anything, not even the vagaries of
memory. The same is true of any consequences that might be
seen as linked to our earlier actions. We do remember--and
we learn. We change and we adapt. But in no way is a
behavior or action at one point in time shaped by its
immediately following consequences.
To repeat my earlier stipulation, I am not trying here to
be critical of Jon nor do I believe I am being overly
picky. I simply think that there are tremendous errors
in thinking that are invoked by blithe acceptance of the
proposition that behavior is shaped by its consequences.
(Excuse me while I go don my full suit of body armor in
anticipation of a full frontal assault from all quarters.)